Family hike up to Mas-Celo and Ray Mines
Yancey County, North Carolina
February 1, 2009
By Mike Kosicki

I have to report that I have been following the advice a pretty smart guy gave me recently, and that is to stop looking for that perfect crystal and just enjoy the time spent out rockhounding. So my last few trips, I've let the wife decide where to go and just went along for the ride and performed guide duties.

This morning we slept in until 9 and decided we'd try to do the Mas-Celo hike with the kids. We were always worried we'd get a lot of complaints or they wouldn't be able to make the strenuous hike.

The biggest complaint of the day, could be made by me, though. There weren't any fellow rockhounders out there to enjoy the day and chat with at all!! The Ray Mine lot was empty when we pulled up just after 12pm. And on such a gorgeous weekend day tucked in between 2 winter storm systems.

I wouldn't post if it was just an ordinary day at the Ray, but this one turned out to be memorable. The kids were amazing, only one major complaint all day. It was a lot cooler than we anticipated, and I actually went back to the van and got a third layer. I was dripping sweat by the time we got the Ray spoil pile. We were taking a break before the steep climb, and while turning a few rocks over I found one that had 6 beryl cross sections showing. I was focusing on looking at those sandy quartz/feldspar rocks that I've seen a lot of big green beryls come out of.

After a few whacks with the hammer (part of my new laid back attitude is that I'd rather cob them in the field now, figuring I'll destroy a fragile specimen just as easy out here. I don't need to add to the spoil pile I've already got going over the fence) I found the biggest cross section was the tip of a really nice crystal

Good day so far!

Down to one layer and still dripping sweat.

If you have any dead bodies, this is where you'd dump them. It's a deep, narrow S shaped cut toward the top. You can't see the bottom of it, and its tough to take a pic that does it any justice. You can see my shadow at the bottom center.

Almost there!

Not done with hiking uphill just yet.

Way down there between Michelle and Kevin is the road to the Ray Mine.

Our focus of the hike was supposed to be showing them the big "cave", but we still looked for kyanite on the way and didn't find anything but a few small blades. I hit the jackpot with my brother this summer in finding a few rocks with beautiful blades.

As we hiked along the ridge, one turn in the trail would bring a warm breeze blowing up, and a winter blast would greet us at the next. Guess we shouldn't have been surprised to find everything frozen solid. The entrance to the Mas-Celo faces north. The kids enjoyed skating around, lol.

This would probably have been a better pic a few days ago. You can see where a lot of ice has fallen. Bet it was covered in icicles then.

Here's some neat pics of the inside. Too much ice and water to venture in, ice stalagmites, and icicles hanging in front of kyanite.


Tabby found this big crystal, but for some reason, it was lot smaller, and the pack a lot wetter when we got to the car.

The kids' only complain was about hiking all the way up there, and us not letting them in the cave. So Michelle found a path to get them inside a little and they were thrilled. I went across the trail and down the hill a bit.

I found a 3'x3' boulder with kyanite showing. It took a lot of effort and literally blood, but I managed to break a chunk off. **Safety Notice - I wear glasses, but if I hadn't been, I would've been at the doctor having him pry a shard of quartz out of my cornea. WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES!!

Yes, the red spot is blood. Cut the tip of my finger on a quartz shard trying to break this piece off.

Here's looking north. If you look closely, you can see the Chalk Mtn Mine on the right, and another quartz mine west of Spruce Pine.

It was around 3 o'clock and Michelle was ready to hike back down.

On the way back, I finally spotted a few of the quartz rocks I was looking for! Only one had kyanite.

We hiked back to the Ray, fell on our butts a few times, and found the bucket we'd left halfway up. Of course I was turning over those sandy, quartz/feldspar rocks the whole way. Within 15' of where I'd found the big beryl on the way up, I saw a small bit of blue beryl on a rock, turned it over and saw a dark elongated shape. I had to break it open, and it cracked just right, as it tends to do in this matrix.


I cobbed it down and barely lost any of the crystal.

We got home at quarter to 6pm, just in time to jump in the shower and watch what turned out to be a very good Superbowl. Who didn't know that the Cardinals gave the Steelers too much time at the end? Roethlisberger evaded the rush all night and made crucial throws. He should've been MVP. And I'm a Seattle Seahawk fan who was pulling for the Cardinals to avenge our loss to the Steelers 3 years ago.